When I mention Vacation Bible School, what thoughts or feelings come to mind? I have different feelings that come to mind. First, I think as a kid it was the best week of my summer! I think of silly games and songs that we would sing. I think of a cool Bible story that was told. The Bible story I remember first is Jonah and the whale. I had never heard that story told in such a fun way before. Of course one of the great memories I have is of the SNACKS! The punch and goldfish crackers seemed to always be better during VBS, it’s like they put something extra in there to make them taste better than they already did.
Now, as an adult, I have very different memories. Most of my adult VBS experiences are through leader and volunteer roles. For that reason the thoughts and feelings I have are more like hot and sweaty, every day all day, the smell of stinky kid feet in the worship center and every small group room, higher pitched screams than I believed could be possible from a human. And, I especially remember and feel the exhaustion at the end of every day. But most of all the thoughts I have are of the multiple opportunities I had to tell kids about Jesus and to hear their sweet hearts as they confess to their Jesus that they are sinners and that they want Him to come in their hearts and be their boss. I think about the tears and hugs from those kids parents when they hear that their little one gave their life over to Christ. The new families that joined our church because of VBS come to mind too.
VBS has changed the eternal paths of entire families. It is a tough week. It’s a long week. It takes the entire church’s involvement and can take a good chunk of money. The question that many churches ask themselves is, “Is all of that worth it?” Every year churches all over the United States talk about if they should do VBS again. Most end up doing it again but some don’t. Has VBS become antiquated? Is VBS something that still works in 2019 like it did in 1992? These are all legitimate questions to ask about VBS. It has been around for over 120 years, and at some point one would think it becomes outdated.
Lifeway Kids and Lifeway Research recently published a book that tackles these questions and more about VBS. They put a lot of their budget money into VBS and they want to make sure it is worth it. The title of the book kind of spoils the answer to that question, It’s Worth it: Uncovering How One Week Can Transform Your Church.
In the book, one of the surprising and affirming statistics is that 69 percent of parents said that they would encourage their child to go to VBS at a church that they don’t attend if the child was personally invited by a friend (51). There is a lot to unpack in that statistic, so I won’t get to all of it, but I do want to point out some important things it says.
First, even unchurched parents understand the value of VBS for their kids. Lifeway Research surveyed churched and unchurched families and found that 69 percent of them would happily send their child to your church for VBS. The majority of families still see the value of VBS. Lifeway Research found that 6 out of every 10 adults they spoke to attended VBS as a child. Of that group of adults 9 out of 10 of them said that they had positive memories as a child at VBS, and 8 out of 10 of those that have attended said that VBS was a childhood highlight (40). Adults still value VBS because it was valuable to them when they were children. All parents want good positive experiences for their kids. These statistics tell me that they view VBS as one of those experiences. Even though VBS has been around since 1898, it is still important to parents.
The next thing I notice in the 69 percent is that they aren’t just going to go because they saw your promoted post on Facebook or because they saw the big sign you put out in front of your church advertising your VBS. It very specifically says that they will go if their child got a personal invitation from a friend. This screams of the importance of community. They will send their kid because one of the families in your church was bold enough to ask someone in their circle of influence to come to VBS at your church. It’s not about the flashiness of the invitation; it’s about the connection they have with the one inviting them. That tells me that we should be spending more money on personal invitation cards than big signs and Facebook posts.
If one of the duties of the church is to promote the Gospel and prepare its members to proclaim the Gospel, then VBS is definitely worth it. Lifeway Research found that churches reported, on average, that 51 percent of the kids that attended their VBS were unchurched (117). More than half of the kids that attend VBS don’t have a church home. That’s a lot of families! VBS offers a great on ramp to your church.
VBS is a yearly event that connects your entire church (It takes more than just children’s ministry workers) with families in your community that need to hear the Gospel. VBS trains your leaders to be effective communicators of the Gospel to children that are living in a time where the Gospel is desperately needed. I did not give my life to Christ at VBS like hundreds of thousands have, but VBS played a big part in my interest in the Bible.
If the question is, “Is VBS worth it?” I would have said yes before the Lifeway book was published, but with this book Lifeway has given everyone statistical evidence that not only is VBS worth it, but people want their kids in it. And, VBS changes the eternal paths of families. I would encourage you if you have never done a VBS to look into hosting one this summer. If you want to know more about VBS and how it works bring your children’s leaders to our free VBS leaders training on April 23, 2019 at 6:30 p.m. You can find more information about it here. It is a great opportunity to learn what is involved in VBS for churches that are new to it, but it is also a great opportunity to get your seasoned VBS leaders ready for VBS this summer.